Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ivy

Rob, over at The Living Isle, on the Isle of Wight, has posted some interesting pictures of wasps visiting ivy flowers , while pictures of red admirals and honeybees on the same plants were posted by Blackbird over on Bugblog recently. Despite a frost earlier in the week, the ivy up here in the North East is still flowering well and attracting the last surviving insects - which are now mostly flies.























Ivy is so common and widespread that we tend to take it for granted but it really is one of the most important plants in the British flora. What other species provides so much nectar and pollen late in the autumn for insects, followed by berries to feed departing migrants in spring - with a dense covering of waterproof leaves through the intervening winter to provide shelter for hibernating insects?

This fly, which is showing a lot of wear-and tear on the trailing edges of its wings, is acting like a living pollination brush. The structure of the flowers, with the anthers elevated above the nectar secreting ovary, pretty much guarantees that the ivy flowers will be pollinated  ....




... as the fly stumble across the flowers, reaching down with its short proboscis, half-blinded by pollen that it's picked up. The strange musty scent of ivy, which has been likened in mouldering papers in damp cupboards, seems very attractve to flies - if you put a cut flower shoot in a room where flies are bouncing against the window, they'll soon turn their attention to the flowers and start to feed.

9 comments:

  1. Great photos, Phil. I'm going to try your Ivy fly lure technique.

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  2. Lovely post Phil. Thank you for the link. I love ivy, I only wish I had a bigger garden to grow a large, flowering one. I would bring by ladder out and sit and watch the comings and goings of insect life on it.

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  3. What a great way to catch flies indoors and they can then be put out without harming them.

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  4. Hi Blackbird, I've got one that flowers but have to keep cutting it back to prevent it encroaching on a neighbour's garage roof. I live in hope of visits from holly blue butterflies....

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  5. I've found that cunning is often more effective than a wild swipe with a rolled up newpaper John!

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  6. The one I watch near my house is also growing over a garage and is massive. I don't think the owner uses it any more but I think he might cut it back or get rid of it altogether at some point. Good luck with the holly blues.

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  7. My Ivy is still attracting dozens of wasps, shows how mild the nights have been this November.

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  8. Wasps seem to be hanging on for a long time arond here too John - although the fallers from a bumper pear crop have helped to sustain them too...

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